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Anna: Our team doesn’t fear any other country
7:00pm Wednesday 22nd August 2012 in Sport
GOALBALL Paralympian Anna Sharkey has admitted she can’t wait to get the first match under her belt.
On the eve of going into British Paralympic lockdown at a special holding camp in Bath, the Westcliff -based athlete spoke candidly about her hopes as the Paralympic Games loom.
The British goalball team play their first game on the opening day – Thursday, August 30 – and they’re straight in at the deep end, going head-to-head with the reigning world champions, China.
But being up against the favourites does not faze Sharkey, who is a physio at Southend Hospital .
She said: “We’ll definitely go into the match as underdogs – but that suits us.
“Everyone will be expecting them to win so the pressure will be on them rather than us.
“Personally I feel very, very good and at the moment I don’t think of it as a daunting prospect.
“It will be such a huge and inspiring moment to be out there representing the country,” she added.
The last two times the teams have met the Chinese have won; first beat the Brits by a whopping 9-1 margin but then just edging victory by a slim 1-0 advantage last time out.
And Sharkey feels this gives her and her teammates a big psychological advantage in the, sport which was invented by Austrian Hanz Lorenzen and Germany’s Sepp Reindle in 1946 to help with the rehabilitation of blind war veterans.
Sharkey – who is classified as a B3 blind athlete – says that she’s ready to do battle against the Chinese and the other top nations in the Paralympics.
“The Chinese will know they are expected to do well, but know it was very tight last time.
“We’re as well prepared as we possibly can be.
“At December’s test event we finished fifth from five, but we are confident of doing better.”
All the British Paralympians are now in their holding camps, with 10 of the 20 Paralympic sports stationed in Bath.
“At the holding camp the aim is to try to stop us burning out.
“We’ll be doing more training – but not too much from now on,” she added.
The Olympics themselves impressed Sharkey and made her realise how big her own sport’s event, just a few weeks later, would be.
She said: “At the Olympics the country came together and the atmosphere was obviously fantastic for the British athletes.
We all hope this will continue on to the Paralympics.”
But don’t expect too much shouting at the goalball event – at least not while the ball is in play.
As this is a sport specially aimed at the blind (and with all the competitors wearing blacked out goggles) all the players will be listening out for the bells within the ball which give them an indication of shot direction.
Sharkey said that goalball spectators would be talked through the intricacies of the sport and told total silence was needed during play.
“But we are hoping that there will be plenty of very loud support between the points,” she added.
Teams to watch out for at the Games will include Beijing’s Paralympic gold medal winners, the USA and the Canadians. But none of the opposition scare Sharkey.
“I don’t care who they are, I know that they’re going to be hitting the ball hard at us but I can promise that we’ll be hitting it back even harder at them,” said the left winger who can also play on a number of other positions.
Family members will be cheering on Sharkey – and her brother from High Wycombe who is a member of the mens goalball team will be cheering for his sister – and the Westcliff woman has vowed to give it her all in pursuit of a medal.
“I think that a lot of people will see just how exciting goalball can be. Thanks to the glasses it’s a sport that blind and sighted people can play alongside each other – so that’s got to be good for goalball,” she added.